Remote medical sensors and wearable technology could aid in diagnosis

04-03-2022 | By Robin Mitchell

Bittium, have recently announced their development of a wearable heart monitor that will directly communicate with health professionals to remotely monitor patients. What challenges does medical diagnosis currently face, what is the Bittium sensor, and how does it demonstrate the importance of technology for medical science?

What challenges does medical diagnosis currently face?

A wide range of medical conditions can often be diagnosed with a face-to-face meeting with a GP followed by tests including blood samples, urine samples, and physical examinations. However, some conditions can go entirely unnoticed for a long period of time only to then suddenly become serious.

A good example of such a condition would be heart tremors, leading to cardiac arrest. Symptoms for such tremors may be too small to notice, making it hard to spot by doctors during routine check-ups. But after an intense workout, the tremor can suddenly lead to heart fibrillation, which can lead to heart failure if not caught early.

Spotting these conditions requires continual monitoring of individuals, and this is far too complex to do on a large scale where doctors are limited in numbers, as is the equipment needed to take measurements. Wearable medical devices exist, but these are generally limited to a wristband that wirelessly connects to a user’s phone, and the data can be viewed from there. But unless the software can detect anomalies and the user remembers to submit their data to medical professionals, such devices will do virtually nothing to warn of potential problems.

Bittium wearable heart sensor to stream directly to medical professionals

Recognising the challenges faced by diagnostic methods, Bittium has recently developed a medical-grade wearable device that can accurately record the electrical properties of the heart. Unlike a typical heart rate monitor, which measures beats per minute, the new device is an ECG, meaning that it can pick up the small variations in electrical behaviour in the heart and its chambers.

The small device is directly mounted to the chest via an adhesive strip that integrates all the needed electrodes, and data is wirelessly transmitted from the device to a nearby phone. The device, which doesn’t require to be removed even for showers, can then provide a link to medical professionals of the user’s condition.

It is hoped that the new device will be used in hospitals whereby patients are discharged and sent home with the device attached. This will provide a range of benefits, including freeing up hospital space, reducing secondary infections, and allowing doctors to closely watch patient data without needing to be physically present. Any indication of a heart attack can be spotted remotely with emergency services already sent to the user’s address without them even knowing.

How does the device from Bittium demonstrate the importance of technology in medical science?

The ability to remotely monitor patients provides doctors with a significant advantage. The first is that remote monitoring effectively allows each doctor to handle more patients in real-time. As each patient is essentially turned into an ECG graph, 20 graphs can easily be displayed on a screen side by side. The use of AI software to look for unusual patterns can pick out datasets of particular interest.

The second advantage of remote monitoring is that the collected data can be anonymised by removing personal information, and then this data can be used to improve current AI models. This would allow for the creation of more advanced AI medical diagnostics, which could eventually lead to AIs that can constantly monitor individuals.

The third advantage is that secondary infections can be reduced by moving patients away from hospitals. One of the biggest problems hospitals face is patients being admitted for one condition but then picking up another infection unrelated to their original condition. By keeping patients away from hospitals as much as possible, reinfection is significantly reduced, and this is especially important for those who have undergone heart surgery.

The future of medical care will most likely come from constant remote monitoring, and the development of wearable medical devices continues to help realise this goal. By constantly monitoring health, diseases can be stopped in their tracks before they become a problem, and this could be one of the major steps towards increased life expectancy around the world.


By Robin Mitchell

Robin Mitchell is an electronic engineer who has been involved in electronics since the age of 13. After completing a BEng at the University of Warwick, Robin moved into the field of online content creation, developing articles, news pieces, and projects aimed at professionals and makers alike. Currently, Robin runs a small electronics business, MitchElectronics, which produces educational kits and resources.